CHICAGO — Once upon a time, consumers would zoom, zoom happily in their sporty Mazda vehicles, but then they would have to abandon them when it came time to have a family because they did not have enough room.
That has changed with the addition of three SUVs in varying sizes — the CX-3, the CX-5 and the premium CX-9. Those former Mazda owners — who never stopped being loyal to the brand despite not being able to purchase what they needed — are coming back.
“We hear it time and time again, ‘I used to have a Mazda,’” Russell Wager, vice president of marketing for Mazda North American Operations, tells Marketing Daily during an interview at the Chicago Auto Show. “And they got older and unfortunately, prior to our sixth-generation products that you now see around us, we didn’t have some offerings that they wanted to move next into.”
Mazda has “grown up,” even though it still has the second-youngest median buyer age for automotive brands.
“We still have that youthful spirit but at the same time, they see the premium-ness in the vehicles,” Wager says. “What attracted them to Mazda in their youth is still there, the driving performance, but now some of things that they desire as far as the type of product they are trying to purchase is also there.”
The automaker’s marketing materials show moments in time that people in different life stages can relate to with the corresponding vehicle that best suits their needs. Mazda has also been focusing on communicating the back story about the craftsmanship that goes into each vehicle.
“We have been further clarifying who our target is,” Wager says. “You don’t want to talk to everyone because note everyone wants to buy a Mazda, and I’m okay with that. I just need a small portion of the people who really care about driving, to know about us, to understand us, and want to find out a little bit more.”
There is still a place for mass marketing through broadcast, out-of-home and auto shows. But digital allows them to really focus on likely Mazda buyers.
“There is minimal waste of talking to people, who at the end of the day, are never going to buy a Mazda,” he says. “If they want a full-size truck, we don’t offer it, if they want a full-size SUV, we don’t offer it, if they want the smallest sedan, we don’t offer one. There are certain things we just don’t have in our lineup. So I want to talk to the people that are interested in the types of segments and products that we make.”
Mazda splits digital into two markets, in and out of market. Out of market is Mazda telling the story of the brand’s history, heritage, craftsmanship, the technologies. “That’s for people who are still just trying to understand why they should put Mazda on their list,” he says.
The in-market audience understands Mazda, they have them on their shopping list, now they are doing comparisons between Mazda and its competitors regarding subjects like fuel economy, safety, size.
One of the automaker’s current challenges is overcoming a perception vs. reality regarding the quality of the vehicle lineup, Wager says.
“The reality is the quality of our vehicles is really good,” he says. “Consumer Reports constantly ranks us number one or two and every single one of our models is recommended. The perception is that we are in the middle of the pack. When we started talking about CX-9 last summer, and its craftmanship, we started to see our quality measures go up. So we are going to continue that.”
"Zoom zoom," the catchphrase coined by Southfield, Mich.-based Doner in the 1990s, is still being used. But the brand has grown up and evolved and now also uses “Driving Matters.”
“Zoom zoom is part of our brand essence, so that’s not changing,” he says. “We are trying to clarify it in people’s minds. Anytime I do any sort of research or focus group, and we say ‘Okay, when you think of Mazda, what do you think of?' Nine out of 10 people will say ‘zoom zoom,’ just like that. So recognition and awareness is very high. But when you ask the second question, ‘What does zoom zoom mean to you?’ I’ll get seven or eight different answers. So ‘Driving Matters’ clarifies a little more of what we are about and where we are going.”
The automaker will continue to focus on their niche of the market — about 16% — which is people who enjoy driving.
“We’re not about people that want to go from point A to point B,” Wager says. “They want to go from point A to C and then to point B. They don’t mind being in the car and it kind of reinvigorates them after they get out of it. That’s the communication we are trying to put forward with ‘Driving Matters.’”